Russia says it used hypersonic missiles in Ukraine for first time

The aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition, defence ministry says.

Russian warplane carrying carrying a Kinzhal hypersonic cruise
This handout video grab shows a MiG-31K Russian fighter jet carrying a Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missile during the Grom 2022 Strategic Deterrence Force exercise at an undefined location in Russia [Russian Defence Ministry via AFP]

Russia says it used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine to destroy a weapons storage site in the country’s west.

Russia’s Interfax news agency said it was the first time Russia had deployed the hypersonic Kinzhal system since it sent its troops into Ukraine on February 24.

“The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.

The region of Ivano-Frankivsk shares a 50km (30 miles) long border with NATO member Romania.

The ministry also said Russian forces used the anti-ship missile system Bastion to destroy Ukrainian military facilities near the Black Sea port of Odesa.

Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify Konashenkov’s statements.

The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


‘Kamikaze drones’

Russia prides itself on its advanced weaponry, and President Vladimir Putin said in December that Russia was the global leader in hypersonic missiles, whose speed, manoeuvrability and altitude make them difficult to track and intercept.

The Kinzhal missiles are part of an array of weapons unveiled in 2018.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said because of the nature of war, new weapons systems are often used.

“In the past few days in Kyiv we’ve seen cruise missiles shot from Russian territory that have been intercepted by Ukrainian air defence systems as well,” Khan said, speaking from the Ukrainian capital.

“We’re also hearing about the fact that Russia is introducing kamikaze drones into the conflict. This is the first time we are hearing confirmation about the use of hypersonic missiles.”

Russia first used the hypersonic missile during its military campaign in Syria in 2016.

Putin has called the Kinzhal (Dagger) missile “an ideal weapon” that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air-defence systems.

“This is a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads and is believed to be undetectable by western air defence systems,” said Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, speaking from Moscow. “Therefore it is being called an unstoppable ballistic missile.”

Putin announced an array of new hypersonic weapons in 2018 in one of his most bellicose speeches in years, saying they could hit almost any point in the world and evade a United States-built missile shield.

The following year, he threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines that could lurk outside US territorial waters if Washington moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons – manoeuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5 – as a part of its conventional prompt global strike programme since the early 2000s, according to a new congressional report.

These weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred”, said former Commander of US Strategic Command General John Hyten.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies